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Government warns: Take action now or face energy crisis

21 August 2008

An audience of MPs have been warned that the UK could face catastrophic energy shortages unless ‘urgent action’ is taken to encourage more school leavers to study science and engineering subjects at university.

Government warns: Take action now or face energy crisis
Government warns: Take action now or face energy crisis

Professor Richard Darton, President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) told an audience of over 100 MPs and chemical engineers that a range of energy sources are needed to meet future UK demand: “We will need renewables, but also nuclear fission, and continued use of fossil fuels.
Whether it’s a wind farm or an LNG terminal, a nuclear power station or a carbon capture facility – it won’t design itself, it won’t build itself, it won’t operate itself, or mend itself when it goes wrong.

“For this we will need engineers and scientists and we’ll need lots of them. I fear that the UK will have nowhere near enough trained manpower to cope with the scale of the challenges facing us,” Darton warned.

Last year, the Confederation of British Industries warned that 2.4 million new science and technology graduates will be needed in the UK by 2014. And whilst the number of new entrants to UK chemical engineering first degree programmes reached a record-high last year, many departments have now reached full capacity.

Speaking at the Parliamentary Group for Energy Studies’ Summer Reception, Darton said that more inspirational science teachers, particularly in the areas of physics and mathematics are essential and that Government must work with industry to initiate a step change in support for science education.
He was backed by Andrew Furlong, IChemE Director of Policy who spoke of a looming catastrophe if action is not forthcoming: “Without inspirational teachers all is lost; we might as well quit worrying, switch out the lights and prepare for a return to the middle-ages. Ultimately politicians won’t stop global warming – but well trained scientists and engineers just might.”

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